Dashain festival keeps Nepal’s last king in spotlight

September 28th, 2009 - 5:39 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, Sep 28 (IANS) As nine days of revelry ended in Nepal Monday with the traditional tika ceremony, the Hindu festival of Dashain was a reminder that despite the abolition of monarchy last year, the king still had a social role to play.

Hundreds of people queued up at the gates of Nirmal Niwas, the old mansion where deposed king Gyanendra had lived as a prince, waiting to have him put the tika on their foreheads.

The tika - a red paste of vermilion and ground rice - is put by elders on the foreheads of the younger members of the family on Dashami, the 10th day of the Dashain festival, the biggest celebration in Nepal.

In the past, the king used to put tika on the forehead of his subjects at the Narayanhity royal palace in Kathmandu.

However, since last year, when parliament asked deposed king Gyanendra to vacate the palace, die-hard royalists have been flocking to the old residence of the former king to receive his blessings.

Though Nepal elected a president last year to replace the king as head of state, the traditionalists still prefer the former king over President Ram Baran Yadav or Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal.

“I had been taking tika from the king since I was a child,” said 32-year-old Kamal Chhetri, who stood patiently in the queue with his four-year-old son.

“It’s been a tradition, like the festival itself is. I am not political. But I think we need the king during Hindu festivals like we need the Kumari (Nepal’s living goddess) and Bhairav (living god).”

Though the parliament reduced Gyanendra to a commoner last year, Nepal’s television stations Monday still regarded him as on par with politicians.

While airing the Dashain messages issued by the president, prime minister and other top leaders, they also broadcast the message by the former king.

Gyanendra prayed for a “peaceful, progressive and prosperous Nepal”.

He also prayed that Nepal keep its social and cultural identity alive.

Rastriya Prajatantra Party-Nepal, the only pro-crown party in parliament, said the government should hold a referendum to decide if Nepal should be a republic or monarchy.

“The referendum should be held before a new constitution is promulgated in May,” said the party chief and former home minister Kamal Thapa.

“Otherwise, people would not accept the constitution and peace would still elude Nepal.”

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